RETHYMNO

RETHYMNO

R E T H Y M N O

πn between Europe, Asia and Africa, there lies Crete and Rethymno, its hidden jewel.

Rethymno and its region are rich in archaeological sites, monasteries and churches, Venetian villages and fortresses.

Blessed with scenic beaches and emerald blue seas combined with high mountains, deep gorges and caves, Rethymno offers plenty

of adventure opportunities and a wide variety of sports ranging from scuba diving, sailing and surfing, to biking and trekking.

Dining can mean anything from casual cafes and local tavernas with native specialities to romantic gourmet restaurants,

not to mention the exciting nightlife. Hotels here are proud to offer luxurious accommodation and conference facilities.

Rethymno is easily accessible by aeroplane and ferry-boat.

Rethymno, one of Crete's four prefectures, is situated between the prefectures of Chania

and Heraklio. To the north, it borders with the Cretan Sea and to the South with the Libyan

Sea. Its capital, of the same name as the prefecture, is situated at a distance of 58 km from

the town of Chania and 78 km from the town of Heraklio. The old town of Rethymno was

built on the cape of the north coast of the prefecture. The largest part of the prefecture is

mountainous with small but interesting changes in its morphology, such as imposing gorges,

numerous caves, lush green valleys and small rivers. Plain areas are mostly found on the

north coast and in between the mountain massifs. On the east towers the Ida Mountain or

"Psiloritis", which is Crete's highest mountain with a height of 2,456 m, followed by the Mountain Range of Kedros, Mount Kouloukouna or Talaia Mountain Range, Mount Vryssina and

Kryoneritis. Among the 850 caves which the mountains boast many are of specific archaeological,

historical and folkloric interest. The most famous caves of the prefecture are those

of

Idaion Andron, of Gerani, of Aghios Antonios at the village of Patsos, of Melidoni, and the

cave

of Sfendoni in the area of Zoniana. Ravines of particular beauty divide both mountains

and mountain ranges of the prefecture of Rethymno: The Kourtalioti gorge, the Kotsifou

gorge, the Patsos gorge in the province of Amari, the Prasson gorge, the gorge of Arkadi,

of Miloi, as well as many smaller ones.  The area of Rethymno is full of disparities, displaying

a wild mountainous landscape on the one hand and large areas of fertile valleys on

the

other as well as a precipitous rocky coast interspersed with long sandy beaches. It also

boasts

places of particular beauty such as the “Lake” of Preveli, the Nida Plateau, the village

of Argyroupoli and of course the unique beaches of Rethymno, Episkopi, Panormo, Plakias,

Preveli, Triopetra, Aghia Galini and many others.

The

the existence of human life during the Neolithic period is proved by archaeological findings

in the Ideon Andron cave on Mount Psiloritis, and the Gerani cave. The greater number

of archaeological findings dating back to the Minoan period can be explained by the

fact

that human existence and activity became more common

both in caves as well as in a variety of other dwellings

places,

the remains of which cover the entire area of the

Prefecture

and are evidence of every stage of the Minoan

period:

The Sfendoni cave, the sites of Chamalevri, the

palatial

installations of Monastiraki in the district of

Amari,

the settlement of Stavromenos, the Melidoni cave,

the

cemetery of Armeni, the settlement of Zominthos in

the area of Anoghia. During the Geometric period important cities such as Eleftherna and

Axos in the Mylopotamos area flourished.

Continuous development of the same areas can also be observed during the period of Antiquity.

During Classical and Hellenistic times, the ancient town of Rithimna, which was situated

in the same place as the modern town of Rethymno is today, must have flourished.

Simultaneously,

the other large cities of the prefecture, as for example Eleftherna, Axos,

Lappa

and Sivrytos continued to exist during the Hellenistic and the Graeco-Roman period.

During the First Byzantine period, Crete was included in the East Roman Empire, constituting

a separate district, which was governed by a Byzantine general.

Henceforth Christianity expanded on the island. During the early Christian and First Byzantine

period a large number of temples were built, many of which have been discovered

by

archaeologists. Starting from the year 824 up until 961, the island was governed by the

Arabs,

although very little evidence of this fact was found in the area of Rethymno apart

from

some Arabian coins, which were found in the village of Giannoudi. During the Second

Byzantine

period (961-1210) fortification works of the town of Rethymno were started for

the

first time, as we shall see further on. In the year 1211 the long and interesting period

of

the Venetian occupation began, remains of which can clearly be seen still on all levels in

the

area of the town of Rethymno.

When the Venetians came to Rethymno they established themselves in the Castel Vecchio,

which included a very small area and was surrounded by a fortified wall. Later, the expansion

of the settlement beyond that wall demanded the construction of a new wall, which

would

include a larger area. This was carried out during the period between 1540 and

1570,

when the new settlement was fortified according to the drafts of M. Sanmicheli. The

new

fortification of the building complex included a magnificent entrance gate, the Porta

Guora,

which led to the central square, where the superb public buildings such as the Loggia,

the Rimondi Fountain and the sundial tower were situated. To complete the picture

churches

and monasteries were built, the first to be mentioned is the Basilica of Aghios

Frangiskos. Important churches such as the Church of Santa Maria and Monastery of St.

Barbara are still well preserved, although during a later period they achieved the characteristics

of a Muslim temple. In 1571 Ulutz Ali devastated the wall during one of his raids.

Thus

it became absolutely vital to fortify the hill of Palaiokastro (Old Castle) and to relocate

the entire city there. The Fortezza was finally built during the period between 1573

and

1578; however, the city was never transferred to the safe area within the walls. Not

only

did the Venetian architecture prevail in public buildings but attempts were also made

on

a similar line in the private building sector. Thus with common private houses the architecture

of the Renaissance of western countries was expressed mainly in the facade and

more

precisely in the doorframe of the entrance.

The

inhabitants of Rethymno have been renowned for their devotion to traditional work

concerning

nature, agriculture and stockbreeding. Within this framework, they have developed

a specific relationship with the tradition of their home country; which they carefully

keep

alive in every corner of the prefecture and see to it that they are passed on to their

children

and grandchildren. Traditions relating to celebrations for the worshipping of God,

nature,

production and life itself, represent a very important chapter in the life of the people

of Rethymno.

Religious

holidays include Christmas, Epiphany, carnival festivities,

Easter, the Assumption of the Virgin as well as the

name

days of all saints, and are celebrated with particular

energy.

Apart from the religious holidays, the farmers’ and

stockbreeders’

festivities are of similar importance. Such

festivities

are related to the harvest of agricultural produce,

the

testing of the produce or stockbreeding procedures. In a

similar vein, the grape harvest developed into a true festival with a lot of fun and singing,

which is continued when the grapes are pressed to produce wine and raki. The event of raki

distilling is also celebrated as the so-called festival of the “kazani” (cauldron). During the distilling

procedure friends and relatives gather around the cauldron where plentiful food and

wine

is served and the newly produced raki is tested. Another impressive festivity takes

place

in the area of stockbreeding, when the sheep are sheared in springtime. The stockbreeders

of the mountain villages invite their friends and relatives and after the shearing

they

all celebrate the event with plentiful food and wine, and music and dancing.

In Rethymno a wide variety of handicrafts such as pottery, basket weaving, woodcarving,

stone masonry and of course weaving have been kept alive. Sometimes entire villages are occupied

with a particular handicraft, which helps to support their income. Thus, in the village

of

Margarites (province of Mylopotamos) most of the inhabitants are mainly occupied with

the

art of pottery, whereas in the village of Alfa the art of traditional stone masonry is still

flourishing,

due to the beautiful white and relatively soft stone, which is quarried in the area.

The

the traditional art of weaving, embroidering and crocheting is still flourishing in the mountain

villages of the province of Mylopotamos, in the villages of Anoghia, Zoniana and Livadia.

Rethymno is a most interesting holiday resort, offering the visitor abundant possibilities for

entertainment. The town itself, picturesque and well organised, constitutes a paradise for

those who prefer quiet holidays, to bathe at one of the organised beaches, to stroll

through the colourful alleys and to enjoy excellent food, a large variety of which is offered

in many kafeneions and restaurants of the town and the port area. Tourism infrastructure,

numerous rooms for rent and the large hotel complexes, guarantee high-quality service,

while the shops in and around the town offer a large variety of traditional products. For

the visitor, who wishes to endeavour more demanding activities besides bathing, walking,

shopping and taking part in the town's nightlife, the town of Rethymno also provides options:

At most of the organised beaches, you can enjoy water sports such as water skiing,

surfing

or sea parachuting. Furthermore, you can participate in diving excursions or take di-

ving lessons, which are offered by the diving centres and thus experience the unique adventure

of exploring the sea ground. Alternatively, walking excursions will bring you closer

to

the beauties of the countryside and the mountains, as well as to every-day-life of the

villagers.

The landscape is full of disparities; it changes from harsh and desert to lush green

and

cultivated areas. Mountains, gorges and isolated, sometimes even deserted, villages

will

bring you closer to the history and culture of the area, particularly when visiting the

archaeological

sites, churches, monasteries and old settlements.

The

European path of long distance- walking, E4, starts in the Pyrenean Mountains, crosses

through Europe and Greece and continues to Crete. Here it starts from the village of

Kastelli/

Kissamos and leads across the island to the village of Zakros. The adventurous visitor,

who are attracted by mountaineering and walking, can follow the path through the

prefecture

of Rethymno, thus experiencing sensational impressions. However, Rethymno

not

only represents a paradise for walkers but also for cyclists. You will arrive at the countryside

in a very short time and it is only a small distance away from the town centre. Beautiful

country

roads with little traffic lush vegetation and the aroma of flowers and herbs are

particularly

suitable for bicycle tours, while most of the tracks in the countryside make

ideal

routes for mountain biking.